How to Test Digital Creative

Dark wooden desk with base of iMac, wireless apple keyboard and mouse and a wireless art pad with pencils and paper blurry in background

What happens to your research activities when your media budget shifts dramatically towards digital? Old world rule of thumb says only test TV, and the rest will follow. In the new world, digital ads are often the pillars to the communications plan, precisely targeted at key audiences. And with social media, they can make an instantaneous impact—sometimes phenomenally rewarding, other times disastrous. Many skilled researchers are left struggling with how to address the need for learning. While digital creative may be more specifically targeted and numerous in its form, it can follow similar steps to other creative testing, with some key considerations.

1. Let Prior Research Set the Foundation

Before a team even begins to execute on digital creative ideas they should establish a deep consumer understanding to guide their thought process. Research for positioning, innovation, or competition is a great starting point to develop the creative manifesto or platform. Foundational research that clearly ties back to brand equity is meant to be translated across all areas of a business, including creative. More importantly, in order to keep a cohesive brand image across the variety of digital communication platforms, it’s critical to use brand equity research to frame it. Specific studies that should be incorporated into and help generate early digital creative development include

  • Market Segmentation
  • Attitudes & Usage
  • Brand Positioning

Pulling insights from one or all of these studies can provide the spark for creative ideas. But being truly relevant to your target audience starts with an understanding of their perceptions as it relates to your brand, the world, and the connection to your product. Regardless of your starting point, all creative concepts, including digital, should be tested early in the process.  

2. Test Early in the Process

While using research to help generate ideas for creative is beneficial, it’s equally important to get consumer feedback on the creative when it’s in concept and early execution forms. Early stage digital creative can be in the form of a concept, script, static or animatic video similar to other creative. Assuming that most creative departments test their concepts one way or another, the timing of the first phase of testing is critical in getting the finished product right.

Many barriers to testing digital creative pertain to timing and internal buy-in. The timeline for developing digital creative is often faster and more complex depending on the type of creative. However, missing this phase isn’t typically due to a lack of knowledge about the importance of early stage testing; moreso it’s a lack of knowledge about ways to get it done in an agile way— but there are solutions for that! Sometimes creative teams are afraid consumers just won’t get the creative. We’ve found that if the concept is introduced in the right way, respondents can still approach it constructively and tell you what’s working and what’s not working, without failing the entire creative.

Forgoing this step is far more likely to lead to creative that misses the mark. Ultimately if you don’t test the concept early, you’ll miss the fundamental form and function of the creative:

  • Function: how well the content engages, motivates, and delivers the brand message
  • Form: the type and executional elements of creative that are most engaging and relevant 

3. Test Often and Quickly

Testing early is important to ensure the digital concept doesn’t reach its full conception then fail. But testing multiple times through the creative development process is just as important.  Iterative testing has been shown to maximize just how successful the creative can be. The more you test, the more you can optimize the creative. This is especially true for digital concepts as engagement and trends change quickly. Below we’ve outlined the stages of creative testing based on a typical creative development process:

Utilizing an iterative approach to creative testing at each stage helps develop, optimize and validate effective creative. What’s more, utilizing an agile approach that can complete each phase of testing in two weeks or less can speed the process along and ensure timing is never an obstacle for your digital creative. To learn more about how to develop creative stimuli for testing, check out this eGuide.

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